DÁIL QUESTIONS WITH THE MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE ON THE EXPORT OF GREYHOUNDS

  1. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his officials are liaising with animal welfare charities regarding reports of greyhounds being exported to China and Pakistan; the measures he is implementing to halt these exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27969/17]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I also wish to be associated with the good wishes expressed towards Deputy Doyle on his reappointment. It is well merited.

Some months ago, his colleague, the Minister, Deputy Creed, told me that three greyhounds were exported to Argentina in 2013, 33 in 2014, 3 in 2015 and 7 in 2016, even though greyhound racing has ceased in Argentina. He also said that no greyhounds are exported direct from Ireland to Pakistan during 2016. There are persistent rumours that those exports are taking place. Previously, the Minister mentioned the EU TRACES system which covers the export of animals throughout the European Union. Nevertheless, rumours persist that there are significant exports to Pakistan, where the animal welfare regime is deplorable.

Will the Minister be adopting the Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill, a Bill which I myself sponsored, and including it in the Government’s legislation?

Deputy Andrew Doyle: I thank the Deputy for his kind words.

My Department has a close working relationship with welfare charities on all aspects of animal welfare.  The Department has in the past met with the International Greyhound Forum, which includes members of Dogs Trust and the ISPCA, to discuss the issue of greyhound exports. Information received to date from my Department’s local offices indicates that no greyhounds have been exported directly from Ireland to China or Pakistan to date this year, and nine greyhounds were exported directly from Ireland to China in 2016.

My Department has access to the figures for exports of dogs from Ireland to other EU member states through the European Commission’s trade control and expert system, TRACES.  It does not have figures for the movements of dogs that are, for example, exported to the UK, the most significant destination for Irish dogs, and subsequently exported to a third country.

I am aware that the Deputy has introduced a Private Members’ Bill on the subject of the export of greyhounds and to respond directly to the Deputy’s query, my Department officials are examining the Bill. Once animal health and welfare standards, set by EU law for trade within the EU, are met, dogs, including greyhounds, may be exported.  Exporters are required to comply with EU law on the protection of animals during transport.  The Irish Greyhound Board advises all owners of greyhounds to only export to destinations that provide the expected levels of greyhound care and management as defined in its code of practice.  We fully endorse this view.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Minister of State will remember that last year, around the time the Government was formed, there was a major public outcry over the export of three Irish greyhounds to Macau, where they would have been raced in the infamous Canidrome, where dogs are effectively raced to death. Subsequently, a few dozen Irish dogs were returned to Ireland when the transport authorities in the UK stopped those who were carrying them. There is no adoption or protection system in Macau or in China generally but there has been much evidence regarding the matter.

Constituents of mine have been in contact with me about persistent reports of exports to Pakistan. Videos have been uploaded on social media and so on showing animals being seriously maltreated with hunting animals, and the Minister of State needs to address this. He mentioned direct exports. As he will be aware, 80% of the dogs in the UK are our dogs, dogs that were bred here – beautiful, intelligent animals. Has the Minister of State made any contact with the equivalent Department or Minister in the UK to bring this matter to their attention and see what they might be able to do together? I know the Irish Department will be in contact with its equivalent in the UK regarding Brexit, our agriculture and fisheries and so on. In this context, the Bill I introduced was advocated strongly by the Dogs Trust welfare organisation. There is great eagerness to create a white list of countries that treat greyhounds and dogs generally well and to set the example for Britain. Has the Minister of State held any such discussions?

Deputy Andrew Doyle: I do not have the answer because I am substituting for the Minister today. The Deputy is right that 80% of the animals in the UK are exported from Ireland, so it would be helpful to have the level of information to which he refers. However, no more than anything else with Brexit, having control over the UK after its exit from the EU on the issue of further exports will be problematic if we continue to export to the UK, which we probably will. Given that there is demand, or enthusiasm, in some of the countries the Deputy mentioned for this kind of activity, there is work to be done on that end by colleague organisations across the globe in many ways. These are global bodies – NGOs and the like – and they have a body of work to do.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: In respect of the breeding and racing of dogs and horses, the UK and Ireland operate as a single entity, I think, so there is clearly an opportunity there for the Minister of State, even in the context of Brexit, to ensure that high standards are adhered to.

Will the Government just accept the legislation I tabled or will it incorporate it as part of the greyhound industry reform Bill? Deputy Penrose has been doing a lot of work in this area. Will the Government take all the legislation together and improve the welfare of our greyhounds?

Deputy Andrew Doyle: Welfare is an integral part of the new greyhound legislation. The Bill the Deputy brought before the House is more comprehensive than ours. As Deputies Martin Kenny and Charlie McConalogue will be aware, the agriculture committee hopes to return the greyhound Bill after our consideration of it during pre-legislative scrutiny next Tuesday. We will be anxious to expedite the Bill. It will be hard to get it done before the summer recess but we hope to advance it as quickly as possible. I think it would be better to work in parallel rather than trying to work the two Bills into one. The tripartite agreement between Ireland, England and France has a serious impact on our horse industry as well as our greyhound industry, so that is something to take up.